Wednesday, January 18

Let’s Write Up a Show!

When I studied Drama for IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) we didn’t just act but we had to study directing and setting and all sorts. In exams, we were given a script – i.e. Death of a Salesman – and had to write out how we would portray a character in a given scene or what colour the curtains would be on set to reflect the mood of the moment.

What I was never taught in all my years of high school Drama – with a capital, thank you – was how to script a play. Sure, there was some monologue work – and I love a good monologue – but we were there to learn about acting and directing and set design and not so much about the written aspect of it all. Drama was about taking the written word and interpreting it to form a production.

Not to me, it isn’t. If there is one thing I believe in the realm of fiction it's that conflict is key. Regardless of what format you are writing for, something must be at unevens. When you write a short story or a novel, that’s it. You’ve written for the page and the imagination. Unless you keep in mind that even words on the page are destined to be read aloud.

I have just returned from a week in Florida, where I spent my time at four of the Disney World theme parks and both Universal ones, one of which includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It is amazing to think that so many of the things I saw and experienced at these theme parks stemmed from imagination and the written word. Curious George, Shrek, The Lion King, Spiderman, Kim Possible, The Cat in the Hat, The Simpsons, E.T. and of course Harry Potter. There is so much possibility that comes from writing. Words aren’t always the finished result but they can spark something phenomenal.

Theatre is a form of writing I have only dabbled in but am ever enticed by. I’ve written one play, which was amusing to write but I can’t see more coming of it. I find theatre to be inspiring and exhilarating. I remember when I saw 'The Producers' in the West End. I was enthralled by the set design and it made me think of all those dull things to do with mood and setting for school. If only I'd had such a musical to write an essay on!

There are so many different formats of writing. Just as with languages or musical instruments, you might find yourself drawn to one in particular or just dabbling in some and mastering a specific one. Being someone who fancied foreign languages and musical instruments but never succeeded in learning either, writing is my gateway to branching into several media.

It’s a fascinating thought that you can put pen to paper or tap away on your laptop or phone and write a musical or a feature film or a television pilot or a graphic novel or a monologue or a pop song. It isn’t just a thought, however. All you have to do is start writing and keep at it. Eternal dreaming is for the idle.

Theatre doesn’t just stem from the written word. Sometimes writing is inspired by theatre. My imagination is always blown by brilliant acting and the precision of some productions. Whether you like to act yourself or not, writing is a great gateway into the world of theatre and plenty of writers are inspired by the world of the stage. Just take a look at Lisa Mantchev’s ‘Eyes Like Stars’ which takes place in the world of theatre, where reality and fiction are intertwined.

This afternoon, I went to a performance of 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' starring Darren Criss in his three week run. Once again I was caught up by the world of theatre, entertained and inspired. The world of business seems somewhat dull to a person like me but I was captivated by the character of J. Pierrepont Finch and the amusing and clever way that he climbed his way up - in a metaphorical manner - from window cleaner to rung after rung of the corporate ladder. Clever character development, accompanied by excellent acting and music.

You might, like me, originally know of Darren Criss because of his role as Harry Freakin' Potter in 'A Very Potter Musical' and its sequel, a fan-made musical spoof of the beloved book series. Not only did he act the lead but he is also a remarkable singer, songwriter, musician, composer, dancer...well, what can't he do? He is a co-founder of StarKid Productions and I find his achievements with his own theatre company to be even more inspiring than his roles in Glee and on Broadway because it shows ambition in a troupe of talent that has taken charge and achieved a large following through hard word and innovation.

Have you ever written anything theatre related? Monologues/plays/musicals? I love them all and - while I'm no composer - can see myself trying my hand at each. Perhaps I'll begin writing a monologue or two, since I have so many literary projects pushing and shoving to be noticed.

Writing for the theatre may be different from writing novels or short stories or poems but it isn't impossible. There are plenty of How-To books and websites to help you along. Just remember that if you don't try, you won't get anywhere. Except on the corporate ladder.

1 comment:

Martha Bechtel said...

I was lucky enough to take a playwrighting class in college and once you shift mental gears it's a lot of fun! We had an artist sketch book that we filled with set doodles, magazine cutouts and fabric scraps that helped build up the phantom production.

I have no idea if the same method would work with television and movie scripts, but I really enjoyed building the plays up from rough concept to final project. It's much more of a multimedia adventure than noveling is (although I have a bad habit of stopping in the midst of NaNo to doodle). *grin*

If you're interested in a challenge, Script Frenzy runs in April and is '100 script pages in 30, but if you're just looking to dabble there should be plenty on their forums to spark your theatrical muses.

Plus there are plenty of smaller theatre companies out there that would love to get their hands on one act plays with simple costuming and set requirements—I was able to pass a few of my own assignments on to schools and non-profits that were looking for new stuff to play around with. :)